University of Miami athletes, administrators and coaches lined up in rows and silently protested on their knees Tuesday night inside the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility to mourn the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who who died in police custody after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes on May 25 while three other officers stood idly by.
Joined by UM president Julio Frenk and athletic director Blake James, everyone in the facility kneeled on the ground for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the same amount of time that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck, resulting in his death.
“Thanks to Julio Frenk and Blake James for allowing our student-athletes to stage a protest tonight,” Miami head football coach Manny Diaz said in an Instagram post Tuesday night. “We learned that 8:46 is a long time to be on a knee. We learned there is an evil in action and an evil in inaction. And we learned the Canes are just getting started.”
President Frenk was pictured kneeling alongside student-athletes just days after he sent a message to the UM community urging students to look deeper, ask questions and work towards change.
“As incensed as we all are at the appalling acts that have led to protests here in Miami and elsewhere, and as profoundly wounded as we must acknowledge communities of color feel at yet another Black life lost, I believe we at the U can take those emotions and turn them into a catalyst for change,” Frenk wrote. “One of our responsibilities as an institution of higher education is to shape the world in which we live. That is our duty collectively and individually. Our mission compels us to be active on all fronts to defeat ignorance, hatred, and oppression.”
Athletic director Blake James also released a statement on Twitter last week addressing the situation.
A statement from Director of Athletics Blake James pic.twitter.com/wTwvpNBOWk
— Miami Hurricanes (@MiamiHurricanes) May 30, 2020
Many UM student-athletes took to social media to voice their concern and show their support.
D’Eriq King, a recent grad transfer and quarterback, posted a photo of himself kneeling at the protest along with a message that said, “What if it had been me? Or my brother? One of my family members or teammates? The problem is, it could’ve been any of us, because we are black men in America. This is a problem we’ve continually had to face, and if you can’t admit that – after it’s been so clearly displayed – then you’re a part of the problem.”
Men’s basketball star Chris Lykes also showed his support in an Instagram post from Monday.
“It is time for real change, a worldwide change where we all are eating and helping the person to the right of us no matter their colors,” Lykes said. “It first starts with justice for those we have lost. We have to stand together and shine a light through the darkness of injustice or this cycle will continue to repeat itself.”
Other coaches in attendance were men’s basketball coach Jim Larrañaga, women’s basketball coach Katie Meier, diving coach Randy Ableman, swim coach Andy Kershaw and women’s soccer coach Sarah Barnes.